Laramie, Wyo,
24
August
2017
|
03:00 PM
America/Chicago

A Journey To Self-Sufficiency

Climb helps single mothers better their lives with job training

A perfectionist by trait, Sheena Hennig took thin pieces of metal home to practice after her first night of training. By morning, she mastered the tool.

This was a new chapter in Sheena’s life. Enrolled in a HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) training course, she was not only learning about sheet metal and how to cut it correctly; she was learning a lot about herself.

Three months later, Sheena graduated from her job-training program and became one of the 1.7 percent of HVAC mechanics nationwide who are women. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Downward spiral

Sheena, born and raised in Georgia, says she had a “good upbringing” and was close to her father. She married young and had three children. Ten years later, life took a drastic turn. “My dad passed away and then just a couple months later, my mom died. It felt as though the bottom dropped out,” shares Sheena. She grew depressed and withdrawn, turning to prescription drugs and other substances to cope.Her marriage suffered and she left her home, settling in Laramie, Wyo. She made very little money working minimum wage jobs that kept her barely fed. She lost her children to her now ex-husband back in Georgia. Money for housing and transportation became non-existent.

Sheena’s foggy state-of-mind, depression and substance abuse led her to make choices and decisions that landed her in trouble with the law. Sheena hit her “rock bottom" while in a state-run rehab program and living day-to-day on what she could scrape up from low paying jobs.

“When someone gets involved in the wrong things, state institutions are not very forgiving," she explains. “Even the little things are hard to come by when there’s a paper trail of bad behavior.”

From what Sheena describes as the “Grace of God,” a good friend led her to Climb Wyoming —a job training program for single mothers.

Stepping into self-sufficiency

Sheena’s story is not unique to Climb. In fact, according to Climb Program Director Katie Hogarty, it is sadly familiar. A single mother without much hope of changing things around due to a number of unfortunate circumstances. But the program could be her way out.  “Climb was the perfect fit for Sheena,” explains Katie. “Our program works with single moms to address the barriers as described by Sheena, with an end goal of self-sufficiency.”

Accepted into an HVAC training program through Climb, Sheena was on-the job-training site three days a week, spending every Thursday at the Climb office with staff and other participants for the life skills portion of the program.

Sheena says the process helped her reconnect with the abilities and skills she forgot she had. She graduated in November 2016 from HVAC training. Through Climb’s partnership with local employers, she connected with Modern Printing Company in Laramie and received a job offer.

She is one of two women working for the print company. Although, the job is not directly HVAC related, the skills she learned from Climb prepared her for the machinist skills required in the role. She is learning how to operate print shop equipment, manage computer files and images, and other technical aspects of the job. 

Moving in the right direction, toward self-sufficiency. She enjoys the hands-on work and fills her time volunteering in the local community. Focused on rebuilding her relationship with her kids, she stays in touch through cards, letters and over the phone.

Sheena credits Climb for helping her discover her own purpose— “I found value in me." Understanding in me. Through this process, I’m investing in me.” Sheena is close to celebrating two years of sobriety and more than six months working for Modern Printing Company.

Helping women climb upward

download

For more than 30 years, Climb, with the help of supporters like State Farm, has changed the lives of more than 2,000 single mothers. The women move away from poverty and into self-sufficiency through job-training and life skills courses addressing personal obstacles. 

Employer partners, identified by Climb and based on Wyoming’s workforce needs, provide the hands-on job training required to compete for well-paying jobs. Many of the jobs, historically filled by men, include construction, commercial truck driving, HVAC, and welding positions.

Katie explains, “After just three months, Climb graduates are starting new careers and discovering new lives. After two years, most are earning living wages and benefits, transitioning off public assistance and breaking away from the cycle of poverty for their children. Barriers are identified and sorted out, and lives are changed.”